Friday, July 26, 2013

What's in a name? The UCPH Conundrum

As you might already know, the ACT government is currently conducting preliminary planning for the ACT’s new rehabilitation facility which will be constructed on the University of Canberra campus in 2016-2017. Currently, this facility is referred to as the University of Canberra Public Hospital or UCPH for short.

UCPH will be a sub-acute facility dedicated to rehabilitation and related activities. Sub-acute care is specialised care which aims to improve a person's physical and social functioning and quality of life, often after severe accident or illness, or at end of life. Sub-acute care areas include rehabilitation, palliative care, older person's health and mental health.

UCPH will house physiotherapy and other allied health services, including a rehabilitation gym and hydrotherapy pool, among other features and services.  It will also provide sub-acute mental health services. Acute care services such as surgery will not be delivered at UCPH, nor will it have an intensive care unit or an emergency department. Acute services like these will continue to be provided at Calvary Public Hospital and Canberra Hospital.

At HCCA, we’ve been musing on the name “University of Canberra Public Hospital” and what this implies about the facility. We have had feedback from consumers on the name which consistently says that the word “hospital” is misleading, as it indicates very specific things in the mind of the ordinary consumer.  In particular, people think of hospitals as places you go when are sick and require emergency medical care.

Referring to the new rehabilitation facility at the University of Canberra as a “hospital” has the potential to create confusion in the mind of consumers and may create potentially dangerous situations. A consumer who is unaware that UCPH is a sub-acute facility may present there requiring emergency care, only to be told that they will have to be taken by ambulance to Calvary to be treated. 

Similar facilities in other jurisdictions have side-stepped this problem by appropriately naming the service.  HCCA’s Darlene Cox and Kerry Snell recently visited Victoria on a fact-finding mission about rehabilitation facilities, and they noted that none of the facilities they visited were called “hospitals”. Instead, these services were generally called “centres” (such as the McKellar Centre and the Kingston Centre).  Similarly, other rehabilitation facilities which use the term “hospital” have also included “rehabilitation” in the name (such as Lady Davidson Private Rehabilitation Hospital and Westmead Rehabilitation Hospital).

There doesn’t appear to be any reason why the same principle can’t be applied in the ACT.  A couple of alternative names thrown around by consumers during recent discussions include the University of Canberra Rehabilitation Centre, Rehabilitation Hospital or Rehabilitation and Recovery Centre.

If the ACT government wants to persist with using the name “hospital”, it will require them to undertake a concerted project to educate the ACT community about the difference between different levels of care – primary, acute, sub-acute – and to justify the use of the name “hospital” when in the consumer understanding of the word, UCPH isn’t one.  This seems unlikely to be an effective undertaking, given the longstanding failures around informing the ACT community about other Health Infrastructure Projects. 

In order to find out what consumers think about this issue, we’ve created a short survey. We’d really appreciate it if you could take a couple of minutes to share your views.

The survey closes on 23 August 2013 at 5pm.

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